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» A wonderful week at MyPlantIT – Dr. Biology

A wonderful week at MyPlantIT – Dr. Biology


I arrived at College Station Texas, the home of Texas A&M, on Sunday. The coming week would be filled with students and teachers all learning about plants. In particular this year the topic would be medicinal plants. Yes that would be plants that can help keep us healthy or used to treat us when we are sick.

I was here last year for a similar workshop, but this year we all wanted to not only get lots of questions answered by the students, but also to get them to do some blogging, podcasting, or film making.


One of the treats of the week was meeting Flora Delaterre – plant detective. As they would say in a cheesy old detective novel – her beat is medicinal plants. She has a radio show that is carried by stations around the country as well as a Web site ( where she talks about plants from around the world. Flora and I had a great time talking with the students. Later I sat down with Flora (a.k.a. Beth Judy) and the students to interview her for the Ask A Biologist audio podcast program. It should be out later this week so check it out on the Ask A Biologist Web site, or iTunesU (July 20, 2009 –

I never saw a book so large

Tagging along with the students for a couple of the field trips I was able to see and learn about some pretty cool things. While visiting the Cushing Library at Texas A&M I saw an old book that was half as tall as I am and the curator of the library said there are some books that are as tall as a person. You would not believe how cool it was to be able to sit in front of these really old books.


Two examples of the rare books in the Cushing Library. Besides seeing some amazing books, it is also interesting to note that these books are all made of paper which is a plant product. So you have some great herbal books that talk about medicinal herbal remedies printed on plant materials. You get the idea – plants are really important. For an inside and close-up view of paper visit another fun Web site called the Paper Project. ( A trip to the Paper Project will take you on a journey into the very heart and fibers of papers. Put on a pair of 3D glasses to really experience this amazing world.


Ivan and Jailene wearing 3D glasses from the Paper Project

Now I know why they call them hot houses

On another field trip I saw and smelled some amazing plants. Some we could eat and some could be used for herbal medicines. It was during a visit to the greenhouse at Texas A&M. The plants were cool but the greenhouse was hot and humid. I loved the plants, but I am not sure I would want to work there. I think I would like to be in a cooler place – like the Cushing Library. I also liked meeting the in-house cats that keep the animals from eating the plants. I heard that even raccoons can get into the greenhouse and cause lots of problems.

One of the cats is named Buffy because he is buff-colored. Buffy is so friendly he sometimes walks from the greenhouse and into the computer building next door for a visit. He does it so often the greenhouse keeper gets a phone call letting them know they have Buffy. Notice that Buffy has a blue tag with his phone number so those who find him can get him back to the green house and back on the job of mousing and roach hunting.

Buffy the cat - mouser expert

Teachers turned on to Podcasting

This year I had a chance to talk with the teachers about podcasting and how they could use it in their classroom. We had an informal workshop where we talked about using podcasts like Ask A Biologist as a learning tool and also how to make their own podcasts. I gave a brief training session on Audacity, the free audio editing software. With this short session I think a lot of the teachers could begin to build their own podcasts. We  also talked about a great resource for music that can be used free for non commercial podcasts – Magnatues (

Lots of great questions

The students all had great questions and have created some very cool blogs. Some will have videos embedded into them soon and one, Zulean, produced two wonderful audio interviews with local scientists. You can visit her blog, or listen to them below.

The link to Zulean’s interview with professor Micky Eubanks of Texas A&M.


The link to Zulean’s interview with scientist Lori Hinze of the USDA Cotton Lab.


All good things must come to an end

The week has come and gone. I really want to hear from the teachers. Mostly I want to hear their voice on their own podcasts. Now I am back in sunny Arizona. I also hope to see some more blog entries from the students and I especially want to see the videos online soon.

Many thanks to the Claire, Ethel, Toni, and the entire Texas A&M group for inviting me to participate. It is always an experience to remember.

Dr. Biology

One Response

  1. bethjudy

    What a full week that was! Wish I could have seen the huge books and the plump cats, the maroon carrots and the colorful salad. But I’ve enjoyed the blogs and videos and interviews. Way to go science kids! And kudos to the teachers too, and to Claire, Ethel, Toni, and Dr. Biology. It was great to participate.

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